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scouting

2020 Season Preview: Chungnam Asan FC



Chungnam Asan FC will debut in K League 2 as a citizen club for the first time in 2020.  The former military club won the title in 2018 but fell off the pace at the end of the season last year following the departures of their final crop of recruits in August.  Work has begun in earnest to make the club competitive for the new season, but manager Park Dong-hyuk, whose contract was renewed over the winter, knows nonetheless that he will have quite a job on his hands for the new outfit to be a factor this campaign.  KLU's Branko Belan looks ahead to the club's upcoming season in the second division.


Last Season

12 W 8 D 16 L, 44 PTS., 7th place (as Asan Mugunghwa)

What Happened

Asan were in the thick of the playoff race for much of the year but fell off the pace once the fall portion of the schedule came round, as they finished the season on a seven match winless streak.  The departure of the core of their championship team, and in particular Ko Mu-yeol, who had been among the leaders in goals with twelve at the time of his leaving, and midfield pair Lee Myung-joo and Ju Se-jong derailed the team's momentum, and they ultimately fell down the table to finish the year in seventh spot.

Last season did see the emergence of a few notable players, such as Oh Se-hun, who scored seven goals and added four assists and established himself as an offensive threat up top.  He also starred for the Korean national team at the U-20 World Cup in Poland as the team made it all the way to the final before losing to Ukraine.

The return of Park Se-jik from Incheon provided much needed leadership for the younger players in the squad, but it was not enough for Asan to stay among the top four, which would have put them into the playoffs.  Jang Soon-hyeok took on a greater role of responsibility late in the season and will take on the responsibility of vice-captain for the 2020 season.


Notable Moves

IN


Mujakic is the first ever foreign signing in club history.
Mujakic was an Austrian international at youth level, and will look to secure a first eleven place in 2020.  Photo courtesy of Chungnam Asan FC Facebook.

Armin Mujakic: The 24 year-old center-forward spent last season with Lommel SK in the Belgian second division, but only made four appearances for the club.  His career has also included stops in Austria, where he played for Rapid Wein and was a product of their youth system, and Greece, where he played for Atromitos Athen in the first division.  He also played for the Austrian national team at the youth level, most recently with the U-20's back in 2015.

Up to this point in his career, he has mostly been a substitute off the bench, but the hope is that his move to Asan will translate into increased playing time providing he is able to transition into the Korean game well.  He will be competing for a spot as the team's number one striker this season, but it may take him a period of time to adjust to his new surroundings before a real impact will be seen from him.

Hellqvist last played for PAS Giannina in Greece.
Hellqvist played in the third division in Sweden last year, but the striker is primed to make a name for himself with Asan.  Photo courtesy of Chungnam Asan FC Facebook

Philip Hellqvist: The Swedish center-forward is hoping to make an immediate impact with his new club.  Last season, he played for IF Brommapojkarna in Sweden's third tier, making sixteen appearances, where he scored seven goals.

There will be a lot of expectation on his shoulders nonetheless, as Asan struggled to score at the end of the season last year and are looking to him to become an established presence up front.  Like his foreign counterpart Mujakic, a lot will depend on how quickly he will be able to adapt to Asan's system and how he carves out a role for himself.


OUT


Oh Se-hun scores against Ansan Greeners, 08.12.19
Oh Se-hun had a breakout year while with Asan in 2019, and will now move to K League 1 to fulfill his military service with Sangju Sangmu.

Oh Se-hun: Arguably one of Asan's best players last season, he became known for his size, strength, and quick feet on the ball, which also led to his inclusion on the U-20 World Cup side last year, and Korea's AFC U-23 championship winning side most recently.  He will move up to K League 1 where he will play for Sangju Sangmu as he completes his military service.  

The exposure to top level football in Korea will do much to advance his career and may even see some bigger clubs around the world come calling for his services should he impress with the military club this season.

Key Player

Lee Ki-hyun: The goalkeeper became Asan's undisputed number one between the sticks once the final exodus occurred last August.  There is a possibility the club may go through some growing pains in their first season as a citizen club, so it will be important for him to get his year off to a strong start.

He previously had stops in Bucheon (twice) and Gyeongnam FC in his career, but it wasn't until he joined Asan that he finally had a chance to play on a regular basis.  Park Dong-hyuk is putting his faith in Lee and expects him to be one of the most important players for the club in 2020.

At 1.92 meters tall, he has good size for a goalkeeper and showed last season that he has good reflexes and can distribute the ball.  It will be his first full season as a starter, so there will still be a bit to build on from what he did at the end of last season, but the initial signs were good despite the fact that his back line left him out to dry on more than a few occasions, so he will also count on those directly in front of him to do a better job of protecting their area and keeping the ball out of his net.


Young Player to Watch

Kim Kyung-woo: He played for the club last season, but was rarely used.  As a defensive midfielder, he may have a very important role to play for Asan this season as the club looks to get off to a good start with their transition to full club status.  The midfield will be a key focus for the team, so there will be a lot of competition for spots and playing time alike.

Providing he puts in the work, he can be a factor as the season goes on.  If he does enough to impress early on, there may even be a regular place for him in the lineup.  His advantage is that several players are in a similar position to him, but he also has previous experience with the club to his credit, meaning he already has a fairly good understanding of the culture which has bee instilled at the club in the past several years.

Biggest Question

How competitive can Chungnam Asan be in their first season in K League 2?

As was the case last season, another crop of loan players have come in during the winter transfer window, so there will be a period of time needed for the group to come together and learn to function within the system put in place by Park Dong-hyuk.  There is no area to focus on in particular at the moment, as all are equally important and all will depend on how each group not only gels but how quickly they will be able to do so.

There are no easy matches out of the gate, as they will play twice at home in March against Bucheon FC and Jeonnam Dragons, with a pair of back-to-back away dates at Suwon FC and FC Anyang in between.  It is not to say that the club faces pressure right out of the gate, but it could be a tone-setter for the spring portion of the schedule.  If they can manage to maintain a mid-table presence while they are in the phase of coming together, it could build momentum for them later in the season.

Reason to Watch

It is somewhat of a miracle that the club has pulled through much of the turmoil it has faced in the past few seasons with the possible threat of being completely disbanded on two occasions with the possibility of a shortage of funds necessary for the transition process to a citizen club almost falling away.

That said, there is intrigue with this club.  One thing is for sure - they have the right manager to lead them, and a culture of winning to build on, owing to their 2018 title  campaign.  It may be a club by a different name moving into the future, but the fighting spirit in this group is sure to come out whenever they take the pitch.

Providing they are able to re-establish their home form from two seasons ago, which made them an almost unstoppable force on their path to glory, they should be able to set themselves up for a good season if everything comes together.  With a good mix of youth and experience, they will be a tough ticket for any team in the division if they play to their strengths and do so with confidence.

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